Growth Hacker Marketing Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Growth Hacker Marketing explains the 4-step framework today’s startups use to remove the barrier between marketing and product development, thus making the product itself the best way to get new and more customers.

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As announced yesterday, it’s back to basics! I’ve read a lot of great books on Blinkist before starting Four Minute Books, so it’s time for a trip down memory lane.

Growth Hacker Marketing was the first summary I ever read on Blinkist, and it played a big role in drawing me further to the service, because the ideas in it were so fascinating. I’ve also read the full book since then, as it’s only a short read.

Ryan Holiday was only 28 years old when he published Growth Hacker Marketing, yet it was already his second book. Coming off a steep marketing career, where his company helped authors like Tucker Max, Robert Greene and Tim Ferriss turn their books into bestsellers, he now focuses on writing and marketing the heck out of himself.

Here’s what to learn from the book:

  1. Marketing for startups today is different than it was 20 years ago.
  2. Target one small, but focused group of customers first.
  3. Make your product go viral by turning customers into marketers.

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Lesson 1: Marketing has changed, especially for startups.

Back in the day when Apple started, they would follow a simple mantra: Build a great product, and then get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

That worked in the 70s and 80s, but today, not so much. The world has become so noisy, that even the best products go unnoticed, if not marketed well.

This is why startups focus on growth hacking, a technology-based approach where marketing mechanisms are built into the product itself.

It’s cheap, it’s scalable and done right, it works incredibly well.

Growth hacking is what got Facebook a billion users, Instagram 400 million, Dropbox 300 million, and on and on goes the list.

Instead of orchestrating a perfect launch with a big hype, startups get their product out as fast as possible. It doesn’t matter if version 1 is bad, since the whole point is to make version 2 better.

Once the product is out, startups measure and track every bit of data they can, in order to then improve the product to a point where users can’t help but share it all over the place.

This approach dissolves the line between marketing and product development and usually relies on the power of the internet.

Lesson 2: Target a small group of early adopters first.

So how can you growth hack the heck out of your own product? Simple: Target the right people.

It might sound obvious, but the general approach most people and companies take to marketing is to try to sell to everybody.

However, this leads to a lot less sales, a lot more sales to the wrong kind of customer, and eventually, horrible feedback.

Even if you manage to sell a bunch of lawn mowers to people who live in apartments in the city, what could they possibly tell you that’ll help improve your product?


Instead, just target a very small, but specific group of people who are a perfect fit. For Dropbox, they knew Digg had exactly the right kind of crowd for their service.

So when Drew Houston recorded a demo video to show how Dropbox works, he inserted a bunch of easter eggs, which only the Digg community would recognize.

Within 24 hours the video had 10,000 Diggs (a like on that platform) and drove hundreds of thousands of people to their site, signing up for the private beta.

Only by making access to their product exclusive to their perfect target customers and catering specifically to their needs did they manage to hit critical mass for the product to get traction.

So how powerful is growth hacking?

Dropbox’s video blew up their waiting list from 5,000 to 75,000 people – in one night.

Lesson 3: Make your product go viral by letting customers market it for you.

But even with that initial traction you might not make it. Eventually, your product will have to be everywhere. And this is where the buzzword of the 21st century comes in.


How do you get those early adopters to spread the word to all of their peers? Ryan has 2 dead simple tips:

  1. Make it shareable.
  2. Tell them to share!

By simply giving people an incentive and then telling them to do what’s necessary to get that incentive, your customers will work wonders for you.

To stick with Dropbox, they give you a variety of options to get more space after signing up, one being to invite friends. Is getting 1 GB of free space worth sending a few emails?

It would seem so, given their success.

Your incentive can also be financial, for example Appsumo gives you $10 in referral credit every time someone purchases through your link, which means you can buy awesome software and apps for free, as long as you’re sharing.

Growth hacking requires you to be creative, so in no way is this limited to digital products. Apple turned every single one of their customers into a walking billboard, simply by coloring their headphones in white and putting a lot of focus on them in ads.

Think of creative ways to share and then actually ask people to do it and your product will fly.

Growth Hacker Marketing Review

To me, the most fascinating part of growth hacking was never the money you could make. It’s the phenomenon of seeing something spread like wildfire, reaching hundreds of thousands, even millions of people, all across the world, within a matter of days.

It’s a dream of mine to make something like this happen one day. I want to use my creativity to spread a powerful, good message across the world. Growth Hacker Marketing marked my start. It’s entirely different from classic marketing books. The summary is very short, because the book itself is short. Plenty of the examples from the book made it into the summary, which is a big plus.

You can read the book in about 2-3 hours, but if you want more insights first, check out my step-by-step guide on the blog.

Who would I recommend the Growth Hacker Marketing summary to?

The 17 year old with an idea that might take the world by storm, but that she doesn’t quite know how to spread, the 30 year old, who really wants to figure out this online thing, and anyone, who has started (and maybe failed at) a startup.

Last Updated on December 14, 2022

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!